Memorandum submitted by Warwickshire County
THE ROYAL SHAKESPEARE COMPANY'S PROPOSALS
The Culture, Media and Sports Committee has
requested a memorandum from Warwickshire Country Council submitting
evidence on its views of the proposed redevelopment plans of the
Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC) in Stratford Upon Avon. We have
been closely involved with the proposals for some time, and the
County Council's views are set out below.
2.1 The County Council has been working
in partnership with Stratford Upon Avon District Council and the
RSC for the past four years. In 1999 the County and District Councils
saw a need to examine the development opportunities in the Waterfront
area in light of the RSC proposals, and commissioned a jointly
funded Stratford Theatre Area Feasibility Study (STAFS), to review
the highway issues and the wider public realm. The study was run
concurrently with the RSC Theatre Redevelopment feasibility study,
and as some elements under scrutiny were the same, for example,
the parking and highway network, the consultants involved share
information. Thus the result was two separate but dovetailing
studies, their elements picked up and reflected in the needs of
the other. The STAFS study accompanies this memorandum, sent to
you by post.
2.2 The results of the RSC feasibility study
therefore did not present any surprises and indeed our own study
reflected nearly all the elements of their "wish list",
for example the full or partial pedestrianisation of Waterside
and a new pedestrian bridge across the river to improve access
to the theatres.
3.1 Warwickshire County Council has recently
started to implement the medium term transport strategy for the
town, as set out in the Local Transport Plan and the District's
Local Plan Review. Indeed, the RSC has contributed to the implementation
of an important component of the strategy; the Urban Traffic Management
3.2 Following the recommendations from the
STAFS report, and through our Transport Planning Unit, the County
and District Councils will work together to implement a full transport
strategy, which is likely to include some of the proposals made
in the STAFS study. We will look for opportunities to integrate
the wider needs of the town with the needs of the RSC, for example
in the parking proposals. To that end we are actively examining
locations for Park and Ride sites that would be of benefit to
the town and to the RSC. Other RSC proposals, such as the pedestrian
bridge are clearly consistent with our requirements to promote
3.3 The creation of a "theatre village"
would be greatly helped by the full or partial closure of Waterside.
Extensive public consultation would be required before a decision
could be made, but the closure could be accommodated through a
traffic management plan, and the envisaged positive impact to
the waterfront environment would be welcome. Particularly we would
look to improve the experience for pedestrians, and full or partial
pedestrianisation can only assist with this objective.
3.4 Full public consultation on the enhanced
transport strategy will take place in the autumn this year.
4. ECONOMIC OPPORTUNITY
4.1 The County Council contributed to the
RSC's Theatre Redevelopment Feasibility Study, which included
an Economic Impact Assessment. The findings, concurring with our
own knowledge of the town's economic environment, showed that
the RSC contributes significantly to the economic prosperity of
not only the town, but the county, sub-region and region as a
4.2 The impact assessment estimated that
the presence of the RSC in the town brings a total of £31.75
million into the South Warwickshire area. £18 million of
this is through RSC self-generated income and grants and the remainder,
some £13.75 million, is as a result of the wider visitor
expenditure. We estimate that between two and a half and three
million visitors are attracted to Stratford-upon-Avon every year,
and nearly four million visitors to the wider Stratford District
4.3 Stratford now faces stiff new economic
competition from other towns and shopping centres. In the past,
perhaps, it has been over-reliant on the draw of the "Shakespeare
experience" whilst other towns embraced infrastructural improvement.
However, it is increasingly becoming a more customer focused market
town, seeking out economic opportunity. This will be assisted
with the recent appointment of a Town Centre consultant funded
from both the private and public sources, including the County
Council and the RSC, bringing Stratford on line with other Warwickshire
4.4 We have also played a significant part
in the creation of a Town Centre Partnership, drawing members
from across the sectors, including the RSC. There is a sense in
the town that the development proposed by the RSC could provide
a window of opportunity and a stimulus for other, very long awaited
redevelopment, specifically in the highway and public realm infrastructure.
4.5 The County Council views the RSC proposals
primarily as an economic opportunity to maintain the Town's position
in an increasingly competitive environment. It also sees it as
a catalyst for other much needed improvements, particularly to
the highway and transport network. We anticipate that this will
being economic benefit to the region as a whole. In January 2002,
the County Council's Cabinet resolved "that the Cabinet endorses
the continued involvement of Warwickshire County Council in the
Waterfront development in Stratford-upon-Avon". The minutes
of the Cabinet meeting are attached.
5. PUBLIC INVOLVEMENT
5.1 The STAFS study process included two
invited stakeholder workshops. The workshops allowed us to gauge
some level of public reaction to the proposals, and also enabled
stakeholders to prioritise the different elements within the study.
The results were very interesting, highlighting a clear desire
to resolve some of the more congested roads and junctions, and
to improve the pedestrian experience from the car parks to the
5.2 Since the study has been completed,
the County and District Councils, together with the RSC have set
up the Waterfront Task Force, drawing high level members from
across the authorities, commerce groups and public and private
sectors. Its remit is to champion the need for development and
to act as an intermediary and advisor to the local authorities.
The minutes from the first meeting are attached. [not printed]
5.3 There has been some press coverage of
design solutions suggested by our consultants. We have been keen
to state that the proposals are just a starting point and that
no designs have been agreed upon. When consulting, the County
Council has developed productive ways of engaging the public in
highway and strategic transport issues. We hope to consult later
in 2002, in partnership with Stratford-on-Avon District Council
and the Waterfront Task Force to achieve consensus and provide
a way forward.
6. PROPOSED DEMOLITION
6.1 The County Council cannot take a view
on specific design issues, nor on the merits or otherwise of the
proposed demolition of the RST, Stratford-on-Avon District Council,
the determining authority in this instance, is assisting the RSC
with their PPG15 Planning and the Historic Environment assessment
and has the relevant expertise to deal with this matter.
7.1 The economic influence the RSC has upon
the town of Stratford and the wider area is very significant.
The prosperity of the RSC relates directly to the prosperity of
the town, and the development proposals bring with them the potential
for wider infrastructure development to benefit the region as
7.2 An opportunity exists for the various
authorities to work together and in consultation with the public
to create a vision for the town; to develop and implement a bold
transport strategy and to capitalise on the town centre initiatives
to allow Stratford to hold its place in an increasingly competitive
environment. The RSC proposals can be a catalyst for this partnership
working and produce environmental improvements that could be of
sustainable, lasting benefit.
Appendices (not printed)
Stratford Theatre Area Study
Warwickshire County Council Cabinet minutes, 10 January 2002
The Waterfront Task Force minutes, 6.12.01 meeting.